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Archive September 2018

Soaring numbers of over-50s in England will suffer from loneliness in the coming years as a result of widowhood, ill-health and money problems, according to a new analysis.

More than two million people of that age will be lonely by 2025-26, a 49% increase on the 1.36m who were socially isolated in 2015-16, according to projections by Age UK.

While the proportion of the population who say they “often” feel lonely will not change from one in 12, the number of those affected will rise as a result of the increase in numbers of people over 50.

The findings come as the government finalises its strategy to combat loneliness, which charities, councils and health experts say has increased in recent years as a result of lengthening lifespans, cuts to social care services and families becoming more spread geographically.

Age UK warns that the problem is a looming “major public health concern, because if loneliness is not addressed it can become chronic, seriously affecting people’s health and wellbeing”. Lonely people are more likely to report mental and physical ill-health.

“Loneliness can blight your life just as badly if you are 18, 38 or 78. But our analysis found that different life events tend to trigger the problem depending on your age,” said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director.

“It makes sense to target help at people going through the kinds of challenging experiences that put people at risk, whether you are in your youth and leaving college; in mid life and going through a divorce; or in later life, having recently been bereaved.”

Its analysis of findings in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing identified over-50s as a group particularly at risk of loneliness and the likely triggers for that. For example, widowers are more than five times as likely to report feeling “often lonely” as peers who are in a relationship. Having someone to open up to about their lives is often a predictor of loneliness, the charity found.

Full story: Guardian

Tom Isaac, a youth worker who heads up a service called Oasis Youth, which works with stabbing victims at a paediatrics unit in South London, says the rise in stabbings across the capital in recent years has created a surge in mental health need among the young people involved.

“There are also a lot of young people who have had to witness murders of teenagers right outside their block. Imagine the trauma of living there and growing up there, and what that does to your psyche. All of them need safety, support and counselling to help them process what they’ve gone through.”

Isaac says that over recent years, he has seen thresholds for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) increase, making it harder to get young people the support they need.

“Several years ago, you might have been able to get a young person some level of CAMHs support if they had mental health issues that were noticeable but not yet suicidal or dangerous, such as anger issues, depression or really low moods. But now it has to hit quite a big crisis point to get any help,” he says.

“We can’t get young people the support unless they’re already ‘high risk’ – so already at the point where they are hurting themselves or hurting others.”

Charlie Howard, clinical psychologist and founder of MAC-UK, a London-based charity that reaches out to offer mental health services to young people involved in violent crime, says the rise in knife crime is producing a generation of young people who are “traumatised, but not talking about it”.

She says the link between mental health and youth violence or gang involvement is “bi-directional”, explaining that while already existing mental health issues make a young person more vulnerable to being groomed or pulled into a gang, that mental fragility rises significantly as they see more violence.

Full story: The Independent

Genetic links to anxiety and depression are to be explored in the largest ever study into the issue, experts have announced.

Researchers are calling on people in England to sign up to the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (Glad) study. It is hoped that 40,000 volunteers aged 16 and over will agree to be part of a database which will be used in future research studies to better understand the genetic aspects of mental health conditions.

The project, by the National Institute for Health Research BioResource and King’s College London, will see people with anxiety or depression enrol online and send a saliva sample by post.

“By recruiting 40,000 volunteers willing to be re-contacted for research, the Glad study will take us further than ever before,” said study lead Dr Gerome Breen, a geneticist at King’s College London.

A major study into workplace wellbeing by the mental health charity Mind has revealed that poor mental health at work is widespread, with half (48 per cent) of all people surveyed saying they have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.

The survey of more than 44,000 employees also revealed that only half of those who had experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it, suggesting that as many as one in four UK workers is struggling in silence.

These findings are revealed as a new online Mental Health at Work ‘gateway’ is launched today by HRH the Duke of Cambridge. Mind, with support from The Royal Foundation, Heads Together and 11 other organisations, has created the UK-wide portal as a free resource for both employers and employees.

The gateway brings together information, advice, resources and training that workplaces can use to improve wellbeing and give employees the mental health support they need.

In-depth analysis of the survey has revealed that offering managers proper support can make a huge difference. Managers who felt their employer supported their mental health, or actively built their skills in supporting team members with mental health problems, were far more likely to feel confident in promoting staff wellbeing.

Manager confidence, in turn, is closely linked with whether employees feel able to disclose. Those staff who felt their manager supported their mental health or could spot the signs that someone might be struggling were far more likely to say they would be able to talk about their mental health at work.

In a separate story today, research by the CBI found that two in three (63 per cent) of businesses saw workplace health and wellbeing as an important issue, but most find it difficult to take practical actions because they are unclear about what works. Employers are taking mental health and wellbeing increasingly seriously, but need the resources and support to help them do it.

Full story: National Mind

On the back of the publication of the Green Paper, a major study by Mind emphasises need for Government to ensure mental health is at the heart of social housing policy.

A study by Mind, the mental health charity, has found that one in three (33 per cent) people with mental health problems living in social housing is dissatisfied with where they live. Social housing is provided by local authorities, housing associations or charities to people affected by issues such as low income or disability.

Existing research* shows that one in three people who live in social housing has a mental health problem. However, newly analysed data from Mind has shown more than two in five (43 per cent) of people with mental health problems living in social housing have seen their mental health deteriorate as a result of where they live.

Wanting to understand more about the relationship between housing and mental health, Mind surveyed 2,009 people across different housing sectors. Of these, 1,762 have mental health problems and 668 were living in social housing and had mental health problems. The survey also found that:

  • More than one in seven (15 per cent) experienced stigma from housing officials during the social housing application process
  • More than one in four (27 per cent) had problems with benefits such as universal credit or housing benefits.
  • Nearly three in ten (28 per cent) experienced stigma from neighbours or flatmates.

The charity wants to see a greater focus on mental health within social housing policy, with a particular focus on addressing stigma and problems with benefits.

Full story: National Mind

The Government has released statistics detailing how many people who need support from benefits are being sanctioned – having their financial support cut or stopped entirely because they’re not able to do the things that are being asked of them, such as attend appointments with a work coach or Jobcentre Plus advisor.

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing a combination of other benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), provided to those who aren’t currently able to work due to a mental and/or physical health problems, and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) provided to people looking for paid work.

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show:

  • Sanctions under Universal Credit are at least nine times higher than the benefits it is replacing. In the last period for which data is available 2.8 per cent of people saw their benefits drop due to a UC sanction compared to 0.3 per cent of people on JSA and 0.1 per cent of people on ESA.
  • Disabled people receiving ESA are over three times more likely than people in receipt of JSA to still be receiving benefits six months after a sanction – 85 per cent of people receiving ESA compared to 27 per cent people receiving JSA.

Full story: National Mind

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